The Handybook for Genealogists, United States of America.

11th ed. Draper, UT: Everton Publishers, 2006. 862p., hardcover. Index, maps. $59.95. ISBN 1-932008-00-8.

For several decades, one of the first books a new (or newly serious) genealogist was likely to purchase has been “Everton’s Handybook.” It first appeared in 1947 with only a couple hundred pages of contact information, but it was an almost immediate success and the first ten editions have sold more than 1,000,000 copies.

My own copy of the 6th edition (published in 1971), filled with paperclips and bookmarks, sat next to my old manual typewriter, where I wrote letters of inquiry to county clerks and probate offices all over the country. In its essentials, this latest edition hasn’t changed from its predecessors — but there’s certainly a whole lot more of it!

The book’s organization continues what we’ve been used to. Each state’s chapter (the District of Columbia is here, too) begins with a brief overview of its history and governmental organization, followed by a lengthy list of societies, libraries, and other records repositories, and then a newly updated and expanded topically-organized subject bibliography. Then comes the list of counties, each with date of formation and parent county, the full official address, phone number, and web site address (new since the 10th edition), and details on which record groups are available for what time-spans. A simplified color map clearly shows county boundaries, rivers, and a few major cities. Border counties of adjacent states are also usefully shown, but not major highways, railroads, or county seats, which I could wish had been included. A blank page for notes at the end of each chapter may encourage the user to record updates of contact information.

Following the U.S. section are similar chapters for nineteen selected foreign countries, all European or English-speaking (Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), plus Mexico. Again, while the selected countries probably are those for which most American genealogists will want to have contact information, there is actually a growing interest in our pluralistic society regarding Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian, and Middle Eastern family research, and well-written chapters on the resources of those comparatively unfamiliar ancestral lands would have been most welcome.

Checking under state and local societies and libraries whose addresses and phone numbers I know from my own research (including a couple that had recently changed), I found several instances of sloppy fact-checking and copyediting, including duplicated listings under “Louisiana Genealogical and Historical Society” and “Louisiana Genealogical & Historical Society,” one of which had an incorrect ZIP code and an outdated phone number. And why are there three different listings for the Louisiana Historical Association, all with slightly different addresses — and which is correct?

Despite its recognized shortcomings (the editing problems have been noted in reviews of previous editions), the Handybook (which used to be two words, Handy Book) will continue to be a basic reference tool. If you have a copy of any recent edition, you likely will be slow to purchase a copy of this monster, given its unavoidably high price, but I hope everyone will at least encourage their local libraries to acquire it!

Published in: on 29 June 2011 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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